children of farmworkers

voices of migrant children, stories of U.S. farmworker families & child labor reports

Articles, stories & artwork by- and about the children of migrant farmworkers in the U.S., including those who have joined the hundreds of thousands of young laborers whose faces and voices have been hidden throughout our country’s fields.

Scroll on to visit a few of the organizations and initiatives advocating for these children’s health and safety, childcare and education, living conditions and quality of life. Please take a moment to learn about these young sons and daughters, siblings and cousins, who face greater challenges than ever in the face of our current pandemic.

Voices from the Fields

Excerpts from S. Beth Atkin‘s collection of interviews, poetry and photographs illustrating the experiences of migrant children living in the United States: Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories (Demco Media, 2000).

A lot of times I don’t know exactly where we’re going, or for how long. When we move, sometimes I don’t remember where I am. Once in Yuma, I woke up in the middle of the night and I saw my aunt, and I didn’t know where I was. I was scared because I thought I was still in Salinas, and I didn’t know what she was doing there! – Julisa “Julie” Velarde, 12 years old

Después de un día de campo

Después de un largo, duro, y caluroso día en el campo,
Bajo los implacables rayos del padre de la vida
Mis músculos me duelen, y mis huesos parece combrar como si fueran cristales
Estoy sucio, sediento, y con hambre
Mi cuerpo está muy cansado y adolorido,
Que temo que se derrumbe
Como un viejo edificio que esta siendo destruido

After a day in the field

After a long, hard and hot day in the field,
Under the implacable rays of the father of life
My muscles ache, and my bones hurt and crack as though they were crystals breaking
I’m dirty, thirsty and hungry
My body is so tired and sore,
That I fear it might crumble

Like an old building being torn down

Eugenia Ortiz

I like to read. My favorite book is about camiones/trucks. I got it from the free book program. I made a book in summer school about trailers, and one about a mouse. But the mouse had to move at the end because he got thrown out of his house. He moved to a big house, made of grass. – Manuel Araiza, 10 years old

Mis amigos

Mis amigos, estrellas que cubren el cielo
Ellos me escuchan, con sus manos en sus corazones
Ellos me ayudan, como si yo fuera el diamante más precioso
Ellos me entienden, como yo entiendo los consejos de mi madre
Ellos me a conseja fácilmente como que una nube es blanca
Mientras tanto mis no-amigos me ignoran como a un perro
Y me critican como a una flor marchita

My friends

My friends, stars that cover the sky
They listen to me, with their hands on their hearts
They help me, like the most precious diamond
They understand me, like I understand the advice of my mother
They give me advice like the white of the clouds
While the no-friends ignore me like a dog
And criticize me like a withered flower

Claudia Garcia Moreno

A Mexican child has a very different sense of the importance of family than do many American children. Mexican children speak with respect about their grandparents and parents, and most children want to contribute to their family somehow. They help by working and caring for the younger children. Because parents work in the fields, and often have little education, they rely on their older children to help the younger ones in school, and to be positive role models. Because the needs of the family are stressed more than those of the individual, parents trust that when their children improve their lives, the whole family will benefit.

S. Beth Atkins, author.

Children in the Fields Campaign: Art & Essay Selects
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

Source: Essay & Art Contest 2019 Winners Booklet (pdf)

“This picture represents my life. The father of the girl in this drawing is trying and risking his life, all as long as her little girl reaches the other side where she can find better opportunities to achieve her dreams. I drew this because my parents come from afar alone, leaving everything and not looking back, and killing themselves at work and doing everything for me. It’s amazing how big a father’s love is.”

Source: Essay & Art Contest 2019 Winners Booklet (pdf)

“The person in the fields represents me. I am planting my dreams. The fruit in the fields
represents my dreams growing. The tree represents my dream fully grown and are
happening. The sun represents the challenges of working in the fields.”

Source: Essay & Art Contest 2019 Winners Booklet (pdf)

“The art represents itself by showing symbolic views on how migrant workers are enormously impacted in today’s society within there daily lives. On the path for success, looking upon education to further grow as members of society is symbolized as the traditional school bus. As most students go about their daily lives not realizing the burden classmates carry, the life of a migrant worker. Balancing this out like a comic book tale Students by daylight, workers by dusk. The tractor symbolizing the enormous workflow they overtake as most modern machineries ty to obtain their livelihoods. Dividing these two are the colors RED, White and Blue representing America. A country where we hold more freedom to express ourselves although influenced by our past generations inherit their inequalities social institutions like the government, education and religious groups help overcome some unfortunate wounds but are influenced by Americans who are bias with migrant workers.”

Works by confined children show hopefulness in the face of stress, and may help in the healing.

“What if young people could be included in the public realm? What would they say and how would they say it?”

“I went in the car and felt very relieved and happy that he would follow. But it wasn’t like that. He didn’t come. I haven’t seen him since then.”

Children in the Fields Campaign
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

Since 1997, AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign (CIFC) has been dedicated to ensuring that farmworker children are protected and given an opportunity to succeed in life. By educating the public, advocating for educational programs for farmworker children, and supporting fair living wages for all farmworkers.

Federally funded program designed to meet needs of students with migrant or seasonal farm-working backgrounds, offering to eligible students’ valuable info on pre-college transitions/support services to aid the development of skills necessary to succeed in their first year of higher education.

Services include academic advising, tutoring, skills workshops, health referrals, financial aid stipends, and cultural enrichment activities. Students will have the opportunity to develop lifelong friends while participating in social activities in a collegiate environment.

Our website will acquaint you with farmworkers and their families in Mexico. You will learn about our organization and its purpose and will have an opportunity to participate directly in the lives of bi-national farmworker families by engaging in activities that serve to alleviate the worst aspects of the everyday poverty they are burdened with.

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